(Reuters) - Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett announced on Wednesday he will ask a federal court to throw out the multimillion-dollar sanctions levied by the NCAA against Pennsylvania State University regarding the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal.
“This was a criminal matter, not a violation of NCAA rules,” Corbett said at a news conference, calling the NCAA sanctions “overreaching and unlawful.”
Sandusky, Penn State’s former defensive coordinator, was convicted in June of 45 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years, some in the football team’s showers. He was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.
In July, the NCAA, the governing body of U.S. collegiate sports, fined Penn State $60 million and voided its football victories for the past 14 seasons in an unprecedented rebuke for the school’s failure to stop assistant coach Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children.
Corbett said a lawsuit, to be filed later on Wednesday, will ask a federal court to throw out all Sandusky-related sanctions against Penn State.
The Penn State scandal sparked a national discussion and awareness of child sex abuse, embarrassed the university and implicated top officials, including the late Joe Paterno, the legendary football head coach.
The scandal was revealed by a state grand jury convened in 2009 by Corbett, then Pennsylvania’s attorney general.
Attorney General-elect Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, has vowed to probe Corbett’s handling of the case. She has said she believes by convening a grand jury, Corbett failed to protect children by delaying prosecution for more than two years.
Corbett, a Republican, has said he welcomes an investigation into how he handled the case.
A poll of Pennsylvania voters in September found they had a poor view of his handling of the scandal as attorney general.
The Franklin & Marshall College survey noted only one in six registered voters thought he did an excellent or good job, and nearly two thirds thought he did a fair or poor job.
Also, more than half of respondents believed the NCAA sanctions imposed as a result of the Sandusky case were unfair.
The university recently made the first payment of $12 million of the sanctions for a national fund to support the victims of child abuse. Other sanctions included a ban on the Penn State football team from appearing in bowl games for four years.
NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said on Tuesday the organization did not have any comment as it had not yet received the lawsuit.
Sandusky is serving 30 to 60 years in prison on 48 charges that he sexually abused 10 youths over more than a decade.
Reporting by Daniel Trotta, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Kenneth Barry